Today’s #MediaMonday comes to us from James E. Garcia. He is the editor and publisher of VanguardiaArizona.com, which covers Latino news statewide, and a columnist for AZMirror.com, an independent, nonprofit news organization. Garcia is also a media communications consultant, a playwright, and author of more than 30 plays, including the upcoming political satire, American Pastorela: The Road to Impeachment.
James, time to share:
I’ve been publishing Vanguardia Arizona since early December. Our first story was on the death of Congressman Ed Pastor. Vanguardia is in English and committed to the independent reporting news and information that impacts Arizona Latinos. This is Vanguardia's initial incarnation. In the coming months, I plan to unveil a print version and a more sophisticated news website. Ultimately, I want readers to think of us as a Time or Newsweek for Arizona Latinos.
How did you get into journalism?
I got my start back in the Reagan era writing for a weekly African American publication in Fort Wayne, Ind.. They paid me $20 per article. Soon after, I moved to Texas where I landed a job as a general assignments reporter at a daily newspaper in Laredo, Texas. I had moved there to find a job as a waiter and establish state residency ahead of attending UT-Austin. Fortunately, I couldn't land a job as a waiter to save my life. So, I popped into the newspaper out of desperation and got hired on the spot.
What do you like about the news business?
One of my favorite journalism jobs was on the state desk at the Austin American-Statesman. I basically got to jump in my Ford Ranger and roam around the state looking for stories. The freedom was unbelievable, You'd be surprised how many great stories you stumble on just zig-zagging across Texas and the border. My stint as a correspondent in Mexico City was the most demanding and fulfilling. As a one-man bureau for Cox Newspapers I spent most of my time writing about the people and culture of Mexico, Central America and Cuba. One of my great frustrations about most U.S. news coverage of Mexico and Latin America to this day is the almost exclusive focus on immigration and drug trafficking stories. The result is predictable: most Americans think of Latin America as a source of only those two things and miss the longer view stories about the everyday lives of people there.
You’re a playwright. How do juggle journalism and theater?
As someone who teaches writing, I remind students that every writing genre has its own craft. The rules of journalism are well established. Everything you do, whether it’s opinion or straight reporting, needs to be rooted in fact. In a play, the only limit is your imagination. That said, my plays are often inspired by history or current events. My play, 1070 (We Were Strangers Once Too), is about a fictional immigrant family coping with the passage of Senate Bill 1070 in Arizona, but the characters are largely composites of a multitude of people I’ve met over the years. I’ve also written about a 1951 high school basketball team, the mass deportations of Mexican during the Depression, and Arizona’s only ever Hispanic governor, Raul H. Castro. My upcoming play, American Pastorela: The Road to Impeachment is a free-association political satire about what our country’s facing in our times.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Movies. Theater. Dinner with family and friends. I hear that spending time outdoors is good for you, but I’m not that good at that. My idea of camping is sleeping in the back of SUV in a campground that has WiFi. Yes, they exist.
Anything else you’d care to share…
Nothing much, except that I think our country is facing the greatest domestic threat to our democracy since the Civil War. I’ll avoid diving into why that is, except to encourage everyone out there to vote and to read my columns in the Arizona Mirror. #ElectionsMatter